Currently loving – September 2018

Zoe, over at Splodz Blogz, has a monthly feature called ‘Currently loving’. The idea is simple, she shares a list of ten things she has been enjoying during the month. Everytime I read her posts, I want to write one but as you’ve seen, it has never happened. Until today.

More than a list of stuff gathered together, ‘currently loving’ posts represent a slice of life and a record of a time of year. So in that spirit, here is my first list. I will attempt to post a new one halfway through each month.

1. Moleskine notebook and pen

I know this is technically two items but as they constantly live together, I count them as one.
Since the beginning of August, I’ve decided to make more of an effort to write the daily things I notice. They are usually small, a snapshot as I cycle past, a feeling emerging from a view, etc. They are quick, meaningful in the moment and gone the next. It felt wrong to always let them escape so quickly as they tend to make me smile. So I’m capturing them in daily(ish) poems. This blank, soft cover, pocket-size Moleskine and the accompanying personalised red pen are the perfect tool for that. Smooth, light, strong, and easy to carry everywhere.

2. Photobooks


If you’ve read the latest posts here or follow me on social media, you already know that I’m falling in love all over again with photography thanks to film cameras. Part of this rediscovered love has been leading me to the photography section of the library, borrowing more photobooks than I can carry. The latest one I have been reading and learning from is Imogen Cunningham Portraiture by Richard Lorenz.

3. Hoodies

I have a love of hoodies. They are so comfy and warm, a perfect combination for the chilly evening we are experiencing. This particular one was a birthday gift from my mom last year. Custom-made for me, it’s the best hoodie I’ve ever had. It’s long, fits brilliantly, and the hood is so huge it’s like being a cosmonaut when I put it on.

4. Cables


A bit of a weird item to love considering how much chaos they can create, but I do really love those cables. As I rediscovered film photography, I remembered my old camcorder. Unable to get the tapes I’d recorded onto my laptop with the original cables, I went on a quest to find how to save my old footage. After too many hours spent online, a few misbuy and refunds, I finally found the right tool for the job. Not only can I view my old footage once more but I can start filming again! Don’t ask me why filming with an old camcorder feels more right than using modern equipment. I’m still mulling over that one.

5. GB Kershaw 450 camera

When I began shooting with film cameras, I stuck to 35mm because I didn’t know about all the other formats available. I soon learned about 120 and became slightly obsessed over it. I love the square format it provides and the beautiful cameras that use that film. A lot of them are very expensive, but a lot of them are also very cheap. As I have no idea what I’m doing with 120 film, I purchased a cheap folding camera to experiment with. I am still waiting to get my first shots back and I can’t wait to see them. Shooting with this camera has been a lot of fun.

What are you currently loving this month?

Advertisements

The chant of the waves, the warmth of the sun

The clouds hung low over the earth and I struggled to remember what the sky colour was. It had become an undulation of white and grey, shadowing the sun and darkening the nights. The calendar had ticked into Spring and apart from a slight warming of the air, it was difficult to tell winter had gone to other latitudes. I had resigned myself to a long wet spring, hoping summer would be worth the wait. Until, one day, unannounced, the clouds parted and the sun began to bathe the earth in its warmth. May had arrived.

I hoped on the bike and pedalled to the Cycle Touring Festival, I lazed in the garden after work switching my black uniform for summer clothes, I rode into Lincolnshire to reach a sunny work festival in Yorkshire before coming back home with a head full of microadventures plans. June was going to be a month spent outdoors.

I was sound asleep when the phone rang. It was work. I hesitated before picking up, but I did. It had been a long week since coming back from the festival and it was possible my colleague needed some genuine help. Instead of the familiar voice of my co-worker, it was the stressed out voice of my manager than reached my ears. Nobody had showed up in the shop that morning. Left with no solution, I had a quick shower and cycled the fastest I’d ever done to work. Phone calls after phone calls only lead to my colleague voicemail. The day went by and my worry grew. Nobody knew where he was or why he wasn’t picking up his phone, until 9pm when my manager texted. My co-worker had resigned, leaving me the sole employee of a shop about to enter its busiest period of the year. I felt all my energy drain out of my body as my microadventures plan slid away from my grasp. There was nothing for it. I would have to work almost every shift until we could find some help.

Day after day, I harassed the recruitment agency who kept sending unsuitable candidates. I was left with no choice, I had to hire the least worse person so I could get a  day off at least. A day of intense training took place before I was able to crash into bed. I had not had a proper day off for two weeks. I turned off my phone that day, resolute that I would not be dragged into work.

More frenzied phone calls with the agency followed. I had a holiday coming up for the end of the month and no plans to cancel it. I spent my days sifting through CVs, while trying to run a shop and train useless staff at not messing everything up. Until, three days before my flight, the agency called. They had found the perfect candidate, or so they said. I went through the formalities of the interview, knowing beforehand that if the person could talk and presented well, they would be hired. They were. Not only could she talk, presented well, but she had lots of desirable experiences and a strong work ethic. I knew then the agency had finally found someone reliable.

Three days of full-on training followed until 5pm rang on that Sunday. I rode back home, each pedal stroke pushing me away from work and shedding every thought of the shop behind. I was on holiday. At home, I packed my bag, checked-in my flight, and slept like the blessed.

The following morning could not pass fast enough but finally it was time to get to the airport. I emptied my bag for security, chatted with them about recorder music and licorice while they scanned my items repeatedly. Eventually, they found I carried no deadly weapon and let through. The plane journey was uneventful and I lost myself in ambient music, dozing off to sleep every now and again.

We flew over the clouds, over France, over the Alps, and finally we looped around Nice before descending over the sea to the airport. There was not a trace of clouds in the sky. The heat struck me as I took a step out of the plane. The thermometer was a lot higher than what I was accustomed to but I embraced it. The warmth was all-encompassing, like a hug from the arms of the sun, and after months of dreary grey and cold, I could not moan about it.

My friend was waiting just outside the security gates. We had not seen one another for three years. I could not believe this amount of time had elapsed. She is my muse and inspiration. Ideas and creativity flow inside of me like a raging torrent every time we meet. It is easy to live with her around, chatting endlessly into the night, walking miles after miles in cities, and eating all the good food. Life is better when we’re close.

We drove to her apartment and I met the new addition to her family, Hawaii, a beautiful gentle English cocker spaniel. I dropped my bag, emptied its content, and forgot about the world in Bristol. We talked, we walked, I met her friends, we made plans to go to the mountains and to the beach. Life was easy. We could just follow it wherever it lead us. Work that had been so difficult and tiresome seemed to be a distant memory as time stretched to the rhythm of my body.

A week passed and it was time to go back to the UK. I did not want to leave, not so quickly, but time was not my own any longer. My boarding pass dictated I had to sit in a plane that day. We said rapid goodbyes, better than lengthy embraces, and I fell asleep in the plane. Drifting into sleep was much easier than having to think about leaving my friend behind.

Late, we landed in Bristol, the clouds had parted and it was like I had brought back the embrace of the sun with me, a trace of my friend. My partner was waiting in the car park, ready for our holidays. We drove home, my head full of Nice, the mountains, and the seaside. I threw my clothes in the washing machine, hung them up, and packed them again the following morning. It was time to head to Devon.

The sun seemed to settle in the sky as we drove south and west. The drive was uneventful, a straight line down to the coast. Needing a break from the road, we parked by the seaside, ordered fish and chips, and settled on a sandy beach. It was all a bit cliché but we didn’t care. The food was good, the sand was comfortable, and the sun soft on our skins. I dipped my feet in the sea, the temperature so much colder than in Nice but I didn’t mind. I crouched, getting more of my body in the water and began to swim. A part of my brain was going berserk, imagining every shadow on the sand to be a monster, every wave to be part of a hand ready to cling around my body and drag it into unknown depth. I resisted the urge to scramble out of the sea and kept on swimming. One stroke at a time, I silenced my brain. I swam a length, another, another, another, and I began to enjoy the caress of the sea.

null

Later that evening, we made it to our accommodation. Both too tired to do anything, we had a quiet dinner inside and an early night. The following days we explore the South Devon coast, dividing our time between hikes and sea swimming. The chant of the waves was our constant companion, one that I sometimes greeted with a song or two from my recorder. Time stretched on again as we forgot the hands of the clock and lived to our rhythm.

Eventually time caught on and it was time to head home. I had forgotten about the troubles at work, my ex-co-worker a distant memory of another time. The sun, the seas, the mountains had taken away my stress and worries. Ten days had elapsed but I felt like a month had gone by. I was ready to face whatever had happened in the shop in my absence. But nothing had happened. Everything had rolled smoothly and the shop was not a disaster. I slid back into my role, my shoulders relaxed, my smile fresh and genuine. Life was good.

Rediscovering film photography

Photographs used to be an art form. At least for me.
They were also a way to store holiday memories but that was a secondary meaning.

A single photo was a creative act.
First there was an active presence in a place to try to capture something of it.
Then there was intent in the choice of subject and angle.
After that came the forgetting and I would be back in the space outside.
And finally there was the excitement of getting a set of prints in my hands.

It was slow.
It was a little scary too.
But mostly it was fun, challenging, creative, and engaging.

It was a craft in which I was a full participant.

Getting a digital camera did not change much of that.
I was still full of intent, presence, and creativity. But it was less scary.

New doors opened and I explored a lot of avenues.
More than a decade later, I have lost my way a little bit.

I don’t create. I shoot, and it’s all too easy.

A month ago, I remembered the old SLR I found at my grand-parents house.
I was told I could keep it. So I did.
The camera was beautiful, an object that carried weight and memories.

I took care of it. I placed it on a shelve high above the ground and I kept it dusted and clean.

Until one Wednesday afternoon when I opened an old roll of film, loaded it in the camera and began shooting again.

Subject: Madrid, Spain

Camera: Minolta SRT 101 / Film: Lomography 400

Subject: Madrid, Spain

Camera: Olympus Pen EE2 / Film: Over ten years expired 200 film

An update on my 2017 goals

Six months have passed since I set myself goals to achieve by the end of the year. A lot has happened in those months and it’s time for an update.

  • Learn European Portuguese

    I have been learning a lot of vocabulary and I am confident enough to handle basic conversations. I understand soap operas when I have Portuguese subtitles on and I can read learners’ books. But I have not practised the language with a tutor or Portuguese person. I want to use a website called iTalki to help me improve but my work hours have made it difficult to arrange any kind of schedule. So instead I have gone on with a pattern of fuelling my vocabulary with a side of listening and reading.

    Lately I have let this goal slide. Other commitments have taken priority over learning Portuguese and I find myself struggling to maintain my daily practice. I am aware that I have overgrown simple vocabulary learning but alternatives are more time-consuming – which doesn’t help me timetable them in a busy schedule.

    But, I have began a new job with more regular hours, and this I hope, will make it easier to make time for iTalki tutors and boost my language skills.

    One thing I have completely given up on are the videos. They took me too much time for not enough return. So only one video was ever produced.

  • Take a photo every day

    At the beginning of the year, I used Splodz very helpful monthly prompts to help me focus and remember to take a photo a day. But I soon gave it up as the habit became more ingrained in me. My eyes automatically catch details and I remember to stop to take them in and capture them. I have gone through days when no photos have been taken, but most days I do and I’m happy with that.

    Follow me on Instagram if you want to see all those (almost) daily shots.

  • Record a sound every day

    This goal has been dropped back in April.
    I started this exercise to push myself to listen and use my recording equipment more. And I do. But recording every day proved too much. Instead of pushing me creatively, the process began to hamper me. I would grudgingly record a sound which resulted into a bad recording. Then I would have to spend hours at my computer to edit what I had captured instead of devoting time to other sound exercises that I found more valuable. At first I pushed through, thinking it was a hump to go over. But the feeling of time lost and wasted never stopped. So I stopped.
    I did not put my recorder and microphones away. Instead I took the time to develop a new sound specific project, one that forces me to listen and record regularly, but also one that is more meaningful and encompassing. But more on in another blog post (coming soon…).

    Follow me on SoundCloud if you never want to miss one of my recordings.

  • Other goals included

    -Setting up a new blog: this is probably not going to happen but I’m fine with it.
    -Sharing the sounds and story from my journey through Spain and Portugal: coming in September and December.
    -Going on a longboard microadventure: this is probably not going to happen.
    -Walking the West Highland Way with Zoe and Jenni: due to work issues, this is not going to happen for me but other plans are afoot.
    -Exploring the areas around my new home: this is well underway.
    Reading a book by a Portuguese author every month: this is going well although my library is running out of Portuguese authors.

Overall I’m happy with how I’m doing with my goals. There is room for improvement but setting myself targets has provided a focus I wouldn’t have otherwise had.

Have you set up goals and resolutions for the new year? If yes, how are you doing with them? Are you on track?

Pedalling Portugal – Photo report

In early March 2016, I found myself in a deserted coach station in Spain. At my feet lay my bike, wrapped in industrial size bin bags. Next to it, my four panniers rested in a line ready to be mounted on the racks. And I stood in front of them, the reality of my journey slowly sinking in. Eventually I hooked the panniers to their rightful place. I got on the bike and off I went. This is what I saw.
For 32 weeks, I will post a batch of photos every Monday morning.
Later words and sounds will come. But for now, I’m going to share what I experienced through the photos I took. If you miss a post, go to this page to find all the links.

I left Santiago on a coach as I needed to get to France quick so I could visit my dad. I got back on the bike in Irun and cycled along the Vélodyssée for a while, met up with my dad, cycled along the Loire à Vélo for a bit, met up with my mom and little sister, ditched the bike in favour of coaches and trains as I got reunited with my partner once more and we set to explore pockets of France. I couldn’t have wished for a better end to my journey.